DING! Round Two of the Blower Ban Bout goes to Mayor “Battlin’ Bruce” Williams. Roused out of his stunned silence in Round One last week after “Citizen Seth” Grimes socked him with a letter proposing a city ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, Williams this week jumped into action with a deft sidestep.
With moves worthy of his predecessor and coach former mayor Kathy Porter, Williams used all the passive-aggressive powers at his command, never directly challenging the proposal, even acquiescing to a hearing on the subject (in January), but noting with his best concerned-dad face that the city has never “banned things,” and wondering aloud if, gee, that would be “an effective course of action.” He said it could be part of a discussion of an overall 5 year environmental plan for the city already being formulated.
Perhaps, he said, the city’s Committee on the Environment should have an expanded role and membership, slyly suggesting some of the 31 signers of the Blower Ban letter might like to join.
The mayor, his wet blanket oozing all over the podium, listed probable exceptions to a blower-ban: elderly people, landscapers, schools, public parks, etc.
Your Gilbert pulls out his solar powered hair drier to mitigate the mayoral moisture. Elderly people could use electric blowers, which are safer and easier. The same goes for all the the others. If they don’t have a source of electricity (there are such things as extension cords and even exterior electric outlets!), then there is THE RAKE. The fact that people, even big, brawny types, recoil in horror at the mention of A RAKE speaks volumes about how coddled, wasteful, lazy and pathetic our society has become. This alone is grounds for banning these pernicious machines. Survival of the species is at stake! The last human will die hopelessly flipping the on switch of his out-of-gas leafblower, unable to clear a path to his car so he can drive the half a block to the store for food. We’re doomed, DOOMED!!!
That said . . . Your Gilbert takes a deep, calming breath, ahh! . . . and admits that a comprehensive plan might be a better idea than passing one-issue ordinances. This is the gripe we have had with the city’s “foreign policy,” a number of one-issue declarations or ordinances decrying human-rights violations in whatever oppressed-county-of-the-week has the left’s short attention span. A resolution supporting human rights and perhaps setting forth a list of human-rights standards we wish to see in another country, regardless of ideology or “national interest” (or in the city’s case “the cause-du-jour”) before we buy their products. We should do that if only to shame the US Government into doing the same. But, we digress.
Back to banning. It is not quite correct to say the city does not ban things. Leaf and rubbish burning are banned, for example. Firearms are banned also. These are banned because they are life- and property-threatening. Are not greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution life- and property-threatening, also? A host of other things are banned: junked cars, unkempt lawns, lost-pet signs, trash in the yard. We go to these intrusive lengths for the sake of property values and our citizens’ aesthetic sensibilities, so why not go to such lengths for the sake of their air and climate? And the city’s recycling program already bans mixed trash for environmental reasons, effectively forcing citizens to do the work of separating their trash – yet this intrusion into this most private area of domestic life has raised not a peep of protest.
So, yes, perhaps a comprehensive environmental plan is called for. The city should, where possible, evaluate the costs and benefits of a wide number of actions, and chose the ones that would be the most effective. Most of those options would be positive (using or creating alternative energy sources, or improving storm water drainage, for example), but they should also equally consider such options banning gas-powered leaf blowers, banning gas-powered lawn mowers, and banning plastic bags.
The Citizen Comment period was postponed so the council could first hear from county councilmember Valerie Ervin. Ervin told the city council the same tale of woe they’d heard from county councilmember Marc Elrich the week before. Because of low tax income in the current poor economy, expect the county and state to cut services, she said.
City councilmember Dan Robinson persisted in his drive to encourage other county municipalities to incorporate. He was not as straightforward about it as he had been to Marc Elrich (who made every effort to puncture Robinson’s tires). Instead he spoke of how he’d like to get together with Ervin and discuss “counties and cites,” what each are good at, what it is that cities do well, and what “stronger role” they could take. Heh heh heh.
Most of the meeting was taken up with a presentation about mansionization and how to avoid it. Councilmember Josh Wright must have been happy, he’s only asked “can we talk about mansionization, now?,” like, a zillion times for the last three meetings. Underscoring the immediacy of the issue was a resident who spoke about such a case during Citizen Comment. A house on Cedar Ave. had been torn down and rebuilt by a house that was, she said, out of scale with surrounding houses.
Historic Takoma’s representative said a loophole in the law allows for developers to tear a house down to three walls, then “add” a monstrously larger building which is considered “remodeling.”
Look forward, Dear Reader, to future ordinances addressing this issue.
Also look forward (November 17th) to a review of the city’s sign ordinances. Diligent Readers will recall the recent council discussions which revealed that there are no public places to legally post a lost-pet or yard-sale notice. Hopefully, the council will find a way to make exceptions for such public notices.
Disturbing information was shared during Citizen Comment by residents of Takoma Overlook, the former Hampshire Towers. According to them, the new owners, Tenacity Group, have made rent increases without properly informing residents. One of the residents, a blind man, said his unit had been sold without notification to him, subverting his right to purchase it before it was put up for sale. The council said the city would look into the matter.
Seth Grimes, the presenter of the blower-ban letter (and mayoral candidate in the last city election), and apparently a man with a tight schedule, reports that he was prevented from addressing the issue during Citiizen Comment, because that segment was postponed for the sake of county councilmember Ervin’s report. He says he will be making those remarks at the next meeting.